Other Law Reform Efforts
last updated 10 February 2009

In countries around the world, reform efforts have been instituted to ensure that perpetrators of sexual assault are held accountable for their actions. In defining custodial rape, for example, countries are taking steps to ensure perpetrators are held accountable. In India, for example, recent changes to rape laws resulted in the creation of a special category of "custodial rape." In cases of custodial rape, once the fact of intercourse has been proven, the burden shifts to the custodian to prove it was not rape. From Kirti Singh, Obstacles to Women's Rights in India, in Women's Human Rights, 39, 49 (Rebecca J. Cook ed., 1994); 2001 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Violence Against Women Perpetrated and/or Condoned by the State During Times of Armed Conflict (E/CN.4/2001/73) (23 January 2001). In Bulgaria, the Criminal Code imposes criminal liability for "sexual intercourse with a person of the female sex by compelling her through taking advantage of her material or official dependency upon him." From International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Women 2000: An Investigation into the Status of Women's Rights in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States 116 (9 November 2000).

In other jurisdictions, laws have been enacted to require training of health care providers, prosecutors and police. Reform measures have also included the institution of dedicated investigation and prosecution units or courts. Specialized sexual offense courts were developed in South Africa; these courts were staffed by specially-trained professionals and produced conviction rates that were 20% higher than in other courts. From Peter Gordon & Kate Crehan, Dying of Sadness: Gender, Sexual Violence and the HIV Epidemic, SEPED Conference Paper Series. Rule 34 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (U.N. Doc. ITR/3/REV.1) (1995), and of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, require the Tribunals to create a Victims and Witnesses Unit/Section to, among other things, provide counseling and support to victims in cases of rape and sexual assault.

Some jurisdictions within the United States have also passed sex offender registration laws. These laws require convicted sex offenders to register with the local police in any community in which they reside, and typically provide that community members may have access to local registration information. From Neal Miller, Review of State Sexual Assault Laws: 1997 (7 October 1997). Two articles published by the U.S. Department of Justice provide more information about the implementation of a sex offender registration law in the United States: Richard G. Zevits & Mary Ann Farkas, Sex Offender Community Notification: Assessing the Impact in Wisconsin, National Institute of Justice (December 2000); Peter Finn, Sex Offender Community Notification, National Institute of Justice (February 1997).

An alternative sexual assault law may be found in the United Nations expert group report entitled "Good practices in legislation on violence against women".  For the Russian version of the report recommendations, click here.

Finally, some jurisdictions have enacted laws to ensure that judges hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable. As the former Special Rapporteur has explained, "[j]udges often either do not convict rape perpetrators or give short sentences of one to two years." As a result, some states "have dealt with this reality by imposing mandatory sentences of seven years and above. While this ensures an adequate minimum sentence for perpetrators, it makes judges reluctant to condemn an alleged perpetrator when the evidence is less clear." From 2003 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Developments in the area of violence against women (1994-2002) (E/CN.4/2003/75 and Corr.1) 43 (6 January 2003).